After 4 years of braces in my early teenage years, I thought adjusting to braces as an adult would be a breeze. Turns out I was unprepared.
Whether you are a child or an adult needing braces, it is helpful to be prepared for the that first week of new sensations in your mouth. It is important also to be aware of the necessary changes to your daily routine after the orthodontist puts on your braces.
Although I went through four years of braces in my early teenage years, my dentist noticed that my jaw was misaligned and highly recommended that I go through a second round of braces as an adult to correct my bite (as opposed to jaw surgery). The first thought through my head was, "This is going to be easy. I've done it once before. Surely the second time through will be a breeze!"
It's been a little over a week since my orthodontist put my new braces on, and I was WAY underprepared. As some of you may have noticed, I have been missing from the HubPages scene for a little over a week due to the unexpected pain and headaches I have experienced. In writing this article, I hope to prepare other unsuspecting candidates for their first week with braces so they know what to expect—and don't go in blind like I did.
Before getting braces, if your teeth are too crowded in your mouth, the orthodontist may need to have a specialist pull a few of your teeth (I had 4 teeth pulled before my first round of braces). This creates room in your mouth for the other teeth to straighten into. Generally the doctor will give you some sort of laughing gas or anesthesia, pull your teeth, and send you on your way with pain killers. The healing takes a few weeks, and the orthodontist will wait until you are healed before putting braces on.
If the orthodontist does not pull any teeth, he or she may still place some spacers (they look like tiny rubber bands) between certain teeth in order to create space. This space allows the orthodontist to easily place bands around your molars when putting on your braces without having to force the band between your teeth. If the spacers fall out, you can easily use floss to put them back between your teeth yourself, as shown in the video I have included at the bottom of this article.
In other rare cases, the orthodontist may not have to do any preparation work on your teeth (Lucky you!). At most, he or she will make a mold out of your teeth so that you can see the before and after once you are done. The orthodontist should tell you in your initial consultation if any prep work has to be done.
The First Day
Generally, it will take a couple of hours for the orthodontist's team to put in your braces. After they are done, your mouth will feel extremely uncomfortable. Sharp edges will scrape against the inside of your mouth, and your teeth may be slightly sore. Be sure to tell your orthodontist immediately if you feel wires in the back poking against you. They have tools to cut the wire shorter or bend certain hooks back so they don't dig into your cheeks. Those with Invisalign may not have this problem. It is highly recommended that you only eat very soft foods this first day.
Pain, Pain, and More Pain
Your Braces Will Tear and Rub Against The Inside Of Your Mouth
Personally, I was extremely unprepared for how much agony the braces caused me my first week. The hooks, brackets, and wires in the back of your mouth may scrape the insides of your mouth and tongue and cause sores. This will occur the entire first week until your mouth toughens up and gets used to the braces. Although it will feel like the pain will never end, and you want to rip out the braces to soothe your mouth, it WILL end in about a week.
For any hooks, wires, etc. that are digging especially painfully into your mouth, your orthodontist should give you some dental wax to cover up the sharp edges. Tear off a tiny pea-sized piece of wax and roll it between your fingers. The warmth will make it malleable and sticky. Place it on the sharp edge of your braces between the metal and your mouth. This will protect your mouth from further damage and allow sores to heal. Take the wax off when eating to prevent swallowing (although it is not harmful if swallowed). Change the wax out at least once a day to prevent bacteria growth from damaging your teeth. If you run out, the wax is sold on Amazon and at your local drugstore.
Another pain reliever is to rinse your mouth with a solution of warm salt water (1/2 tsp salt per 1 cup of warm water) for about 30 seconds 5-6 times a day. This will help ease pain and allow any sores to heal faster as well.
Your Gums, Teeth, Jaw, and Head Will Be Sore
Your gums and teeth will be sore as the teeth begin to loosen and move. In some cases your jaw may be sore as well. This is due to the constant tugging of your adult teeth by the roots as they move into a position they are unfamiliar with. Some people experience headaches due to the tooth and jaw movement also.
The best remedy for this is to continue taking your favorite pain-killer (i.e., Tylenol, Advil, etc.) for about a week. Many recommend taking one tablet half an hour before each orthodontist appointment and then continuously for up to 1 week afterward per the instructions on the medication.
Your gums may be sensitive to extreme hot and cold at this time. Try to only eat, drink, and rinse with only warm foods and liquids if this is the case.
A Lament for My Friend Food: What You Can and Can't Eat
The most difficult adjustment for me was the highly restricted diet my first week with braces. I am an avid food lover, and so finding out that my mouth hurt too much to eat actually brought tears to my eyes. It was like losing a best friend I'd taken for granted until it was forced from me.
Then I discovered how much ice cream I could consume...
Excessive chewing that first week with braces tends to hurt because it causes the braces to rub against the sores in your mouth, and makes sore teeth feel even worse. It is highly recommended to eat only soft, liquid-like foods that require minimal chewing. Cold desserts like ice cream and frozen yogurt actually are excellent foods to eat during this time because they require minimal chewing, and the cold numbs the pain. It really feels like Heaven in your mouth.
Some soft foods that you can eat during your first week of braces include:
- ice cream
- frozen yogurt
- blended soup (i.e., tomato basil, butternut squash, pea, chowder)
- mashed potatoes
- extremely steamed vegetables
- other soft foods
After the first week, as you stop feeling strong pain in your mouth, you will be able to eat normally again with the exception of hard and sticky foods.
Oral Hygiene: Caring For Your Mouth
A mouth with braces is like Disneyland for bacteria. All those nooks, crannies, and new spaces between your teeth are perfect snagging places for food and sugars which bacteria thrive on. It is imperative that you take care of your teeth and gums. Otherwise you could end up with permanently stained teeth and gum disease.
Brush your teeth in the morning, evening, and after meals.
Most of you probably already brush your teeth when you wake up and before you go to bed. Now that you have braces, you will want to brush your teeth after meals too. This will get most of the food stuck in your braces out so that it doesn't feed bacteria and/or cause bad breath. Not to mention, it isn't a pretty sight for people to talk to you while food is hanging out all over your teeth.
Floss at least once a day.
Flossing with braces is a huge pain. You have to thread the floss under the braces wire between every single teeth. What used to take me 2 minutes now takes me between 8-10 minutes. It's very easy to decide flossing is too much trouble and give it up, but this is one of the most important things you must do to ensure you have healthy gums. Your orthodontist or local drugstore should have flossing tools to help you thread the floss under your braces. Use them! The first time I had braces, I didn't floss and ended up with all sorts of painful and expensive gum and periodontal problems afterwards. This time I'm not making the same mistake.
Use fluoride or plaque-destroying mouthwash.
Your main goal with dental hygiene is to prevent plaque build-up. Plaque will cause tooth and gum disease, and also leave white bracket-shaped marks on your teeth when you take your braces off. These marks will stay on your teeth for the rest of your life. To prevent that, in addition to all of the other steps, it may help to rinse for 30 seconds at least once a day with fluoride or mouthwash. I like doing this at least once in the evening after I floss and before I brush my teeth.
Continue regular cleaning visits with your dental hygienist.
You will never be able to clean your teeth as well as your dentist (or hygienist) can professionally. Just as you did before you had braces, continue to visit your regular dentist to get your teeth cleaned. For some of you, the dentist may recommend more frequent visits.
I know many of these steps seem excessively troublesome. Speaking from experience, I cannot emphasize enough that you should NOT take shortcuts. Your oral hygiene is of the utmost importance while you have braces because plaque buildup can cause lasting damage to your teeth that will not go away for the rest of your life. Do not take your teeth for granted. So much of life's enjoyments (eating, speaking, your appearance) are directly related to the health of your teeth and gums. Please don't ruin that for yourself.
Beyond the First Week
Although during your first week with braces, it may seem like the pain is never-ending, there is hope. By the 6th or 7th day, your cheeks will toughen up, your sores should be completely healed, and you probably won't have to use orthodontic wax on your braces anymore. If you are still experiencing pain, call your orthodontist and see if they need to cut some wires shorter or bend some hooks back to keep them from catching on your inner cheek. Your teeth should have mostly settled by 1-2 weeks, and the pain in your jaw will subside. You will even be able to eat most foods except those that your orthodontist warns you of (hard and sticky foods generally). Life will seem tentatively joyful and bright again.
Every month or so, the orthodontist will call you back in to get your braces tightened or adjusted. You will experience extreme pain again at this time, although to a lesser degree than your first week with braces and for a shorter period of time. It is recommended that you take a Tylenol or Advil 30 minutes to an hour prior to the appointment and for at least a day afterwards to help with the pain. You may also need to revert back to soft and liquid-like foods for 2-3 days after each adjustment.
Before long, braces will seem like an extension of your body, and you won't really notice them again until they come off! Best of luck to all of you with your new braces!
How to Replace Spacers/Separators If They Fall Out
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Sophia Patel11 on August 09, 2020:
it is very useful information for everybody, the explanation was very clear and talk deeply about dental, thanks for sharing, for more related you can visit here- https://www.invisalignsupport.com/2020/07/can-you-...
2fyee on May 23, 2020:
honestly, im 5 days in ad my braces didnt hurt at all the WHOLE process and the days after. i felt a slight pressure and the medicine i took.... i NEVER needed it lol. i guess i just have a high pain tolerance.
firstname.lastname@example.org on September 02, 2018:
Thanks for everyone who posted before - 3 days in and I keep thinking this can't be right, but it seems everyone else has gone through the "I have made a terrible mistake and this hurts phase". Doesn't help my headache or the raw inside of my mouth right now but gives me hope it will get better.
Keischa Beukes on July 29, 2018:
I am getting my braces over 3 weeks I am very excited and scared at the same time !!!!!!!!!!!
shamiela on June 18, 2018:
its my second day and I was not prepared for this painful discomfort. I cant even handle a tooth ache so to have my entire mouth in pain is crazy. I am hoping this pain goes away by the end of the week because I don't think I can handle it for longer than. I also hate the fact that I cant eat foods. drinking things are fine but my body is craving food.
Michael on June 08, 2018:
I am getting braces at 66 in about 34 days. I have been unhappy with my smile and cringe every time I look in the mirror. I can't believe I have waited this long to do something about my smile.
Kristine on October 08, 2017:
This is my 3rd day with braces---my mouth is a volcano with knives :(
Alejandro on August 16, 2017:
It´s amazing how many people google this topic within their first days with braces. Keep it together people. We shall prevail!
Kaylee on July 20, 2017:
Absolute pain. I thought this was going to be easy, but it's my third day and I want to cut them out. I not trying to scare anyone who is getting brace but just be prepared because they hurt in the first week
Kim on February 16, 2017:
2nd day of braces....absolutely horrible! My teeth are in pain, my sleep hours has been disrupted and im already getting ulcers. :( im not happy and i pray that to anyone who gets braces be prepared because you dont want to be like me! UNPREPARED!!!
Mandy Shawn on February 15, 2017:
I got my braces today, they are teal...... I have had them in my mouth for two hours and my mouth fells dead!! I wish I could pull them out, I have used lots wax and know that the wire is perfect..... I could not close my mouth for the first minutes wit them on, I am happy that you wrote this article!! If you do not have braces and are getting make sure you cherish eating what ever you want and cherish the felling of your teeth, I wish i could feel my teeth now, It helped so much, I will stick to my soft food diet and hopefully have a good rest of two years with braces.
Amin on December 16, 2016:
Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It is my second day and I have pain & pain. I can not eat properly, the same as you mentioned. I hope it will go away in next week. Again thanks :-)
Donna on December 13, 2016:
I am 62 years old and recently got braces not to correct my smile per se (I've had the same smile my whole life!), but in an effort to save my teeth. The likely alternative would be dentures or extractions/implants. I got the upper braces first in November and had some discomfort, but could eat reasonably well after a few days. Last week I got the lower braces and bite jams under my upper teeth; this is a totally different ballgame. I am eating nothing but mashed potatoes and ice cream at this point, and am very discouraged. Has anyone any personal experience with bite jams to share? Thanks so much.
Yoko on November 25, 2016:
Got my braces the other day and they hurt so badly! The wire at the back of my mouth kept scraping my cheeks and it was painful to an extent hard to describe! Just to let everyone know, my braces were done incorrectly so the wire was a bit too long and cut my cheek, so if you have any concerns do go to your orthodontist and tell them. Most of the time it would be nothing but if it's really causing you excruciating pain, go get it seen.
Coleen Winton on September 30, 2016:
Great article. I've tried to use Orthofill to fix the gaps in my teeth and I've no problem with it.
Danette on September 24, 2016:
I suffered severe neck pains for the last 5 years and no doctor could diagnosed me.I was living in agony that my quality of life was affected tremendously. But then a visit to my dentist and then orthodontist changed it,it was discovered that my overbite, was causing my lower jaw muscle to use other muscles(my neck) to assist it to do it's work properly ect chewing,speaking....
Just got my braces two days ago at age 40, what a shock to my body! But worst is in two year's time as soon as my teeth is shaped and moved into it's new position I must get jaw surgery to finally fix my cronical pain. Now that I believe is another ball game. But I had to make the desission to live in pain or go through pain to fix the problem and be pain free for the rest of my life.
Thank you for the info. As for now I take it one step at a time, suffering headaces and gum/teeth pains and wires pocking me, but knowing it gets better gives me hope
Diana on September 02, 2016:
@McHobbit So did you google about braces to bash on people who give a shit about their teeth? Having straight teeth opens up professional and social opportunities and they look awesome. No need to be rude, just enjoy your crooked smile and let live lol.
McHobbit on July 28, 2016:
@Danisha, I'm not saying you are down for the count the entire time you have braces. That is why I said 3.4 months (the times which you will be in extreme pain from new braces and tightenings). But even beyond that, travel will be hindered by orthodontist appointments because you must schedule it around that and then you might end up not being able to enjoy the local cuisine properly because of that endless list of food you cannot eat. You better give up certain sports so you don't get hit in the mouth and you might be forced to stop playing the saxophone or the like because the braces mess that up. Any type of social event involving food will be a pain in the butt because of the restrictions too, work dinners included. Getting anything done after a tightning must have been tough and I doubt you were very social on those days. I'm sure you couldn't do and eat everything you could have done in other countries and states had you not had braces. I have no issues with dental care- I get cleanings twice a year, I have had fillings and my wisdom teeth extracted. I don't have any health problems, I have imperfect teeth which is a problem only to other people. I'm too busy in my life to spend 24 months in braces on a diet and 3.5 of those months in agony because society doesn't like my teeth. I'm not saying braces are NEVER necessary but the fact is that most of the time it's just to make the teeth look the way society deems acceptable. I find it funny that people who are against nose jobs and boob jobs are all for cosmetic braces. Some people nose jobs and boob jobs for medical reasons too (mastectomy after cancer, deviated septum, too large breasts that cause back pain). But yet it would be very rare for anyone to tell me to get my ugly nose or my tiny boobs fixed, no? If someone did, you would say he is rude but I have many times seen people suggest braces to others and no one blinks an eye. Other than ear pinning and in some cases removal of moles and the like, braces are the only cosmetic treatment that we do on children and the other two are painful but pass fast. I'd rather get my ears pinned, all moles on my body removed, boobs done AND my nose done one after the other than get braces. Braces take years and hurt every few weeks and you can't eat correctly the entire time they are on. My sanity and living my life is more important to me than having a "beautiful smile" which I can still have if I get veneers or have the teeth that are crooked replaced with implants. But dear god I'm not putting myself in pain and eliminating half of my diet.
Sarah on July 28, 2016:
One of my spacers removed and I can't find it. Is it advisable I replace it with a rubber band?
Danisha on July 26, 2016:
@McHobbit. Guess what, I was doing all of those things. In the past two years I have traveled to 8 different countries 5 different states and probably 30-40 different cities. I have volunteered, worked 2 jobs and I am now about graduate in Aug with my undergrad. 23 years young and finally decided to fix my horrendous mouth. Dental care is imperative believe it or not. It's not just for superficial reasons but health reasons as well. Do some research to learn about the importance of a beautiful smile.
McHobbit on July 12, 2016:
So basically you are torturing yourself and putting yourself in severe pain that keeps you from eating, enjoying live and doing well at work for a total of 83 days. That's 3.4 months of your life you voluntarily waste (because if you are in extreme pain, that day is wasted. Nothing productive or enjoyable gets done, only the bare minimum) to suit what society thinks is beautiful. 83 months you could have spend having a vacation you will always remember, volunteering or applying yourself at work to get that promotion. That is just sad to me, that we would do this to ourselves and to small children and then following that ordeal, willingly wear a nasty retainer to bed for life. This world has gone insane.
Luca on July 04, 2016:
I got my top linguinal braces on Thursday about 4 days ago and I was amazed by how great it was. Minimal lisp and yes my teeth were sore mostly from the wire but it got better pretty fast I'm not chewing bread which I am amazed about. only thing that sucks is the excess saliva although I had wisdom teeth and 4 teeth extracted 6 days before braces so my body is recovering from braces and surgery but overall happy I had the confidence to get them done.
Carly on April 06, 2016:
I just got braces earlier today and I was certainly NOT prepared for this. I kind of want to cry at any given moment, actually. That sounds so sad, reading it back. Anyway, I guess I'm relieved to know it's going to be less awful after the first week... but DEAR LORD, I HAVE TO GO THROUGH A WEEK OF THIS.
chris on February 04, 2016:
well its the first day of having them.. after i had them when i was a kid my teeth spaced back out i kept losing my retainers I wont this time i feel like a kid a gain lol im i n my early 30's
Honey on August 22, 2015:
im on the 6th day i still cant bite. Is this normal? Please answer
Crystal on March 22, 2015:
I just got my braces 3 days ago and although I thoroughly researched the process, I was not mentally prepared for this level of discomfort.
Granted it has not even been a week yet and I want to rip these off BUT I am focused on the END RESULT of having a better smile
Dr. Samprita Sahu from Indore, India on December 06, 2014:
Asking your Orthodontist for some wax on the first day itself would prevent any cuts and sores on the tongue and cheek and the associated pain.
Be sure to follow your Orthodontist's advice on what to eat n what to stay away from... Any hard and crisp food stuff is a strict no for at least the first week..
kjohn5 on February 28, 2013:
I would agree. Except, I went to the site www.arapahoeorthodontics.com and my daughter got braces from them. She told me that her first week really wasn't that bad. her first day yes, but after that day, things became mostly normal again. They must have done a good job.
Rex Walter on February 15, 2013:
Are the manufactures of braces really that supid?? Why don't they smooth the endges of the braces just a little, it would be so much more comfortable!!
Lin on February 12, 2013:
This is so helpful! One of my separators came out prematurely (1 week before my braces appt) cos I brushed too hard, and managed to put it back after watching the clip. Thanks!
Kate on December 27, 2012:
I'm 13 and i just got them on today. The back braces really hurt and kill when I bite and they scrape my gums. This article has given me hope though :)
KellyMediaBest from Tampa, Florida on September 26, 2012:
I had braces for 3 1/2 years about 8 years ago, and I can still clearly remember the pain I felt on days when they were tightened. I literally would only eat soup, jell-o, pudding and ice cream on the day I visited the orthodontist. The only thing worse than that, was all the food that gets stuck in them. My retainers don't fit anymore, but my teeth seem pretty straight. Good luck , it will be worth it in the end.
Christine C (author) from Houston, TX on September 19, 2012:
I hope the pain has lessened for you, and I'm so glad the article was helpful for you. I felt exactly the same around day 4-5 of my braces as well. It felt like the pain would never end! But YES! You do get used to it after a while and you WILL be able to eat mostly normally again (Except those foods your orthodontist says to avoid). Thanks for dropping by!
Lindie from Pennsylvania on September 10, 2012:
I feel so relieved after reading this. I am 31 and finally got braces after years of wanting them but I had no idea what it would feel like. I was so afraid that this pain and rubbing wasn't normal. I am on day 4 of my braces and hope that the pain and sores will ease up soon. I miss food so much. Sigh. Thank You for all of your helpful information. ;)
Christine C (author) from Houston, TX on August 03, 2012:
Thanks! Yes - When I first got my braces on (I'm also in my late 20's) I was horrified by how painful it was and was afraid that the pain would never end. By the end of the first week, it was SO Much better, and by the end of the second week, my mouth had mostly toughened up and gotten used to the pain. From what I remember, there should be some pain again each time your braces are tightened, but it won't be as bad as when you first get them put on.
Ellie on July 27, 2012:
Great article. I'm nearly 29 and just got braces for the first time 4 days ago, and I felt incredibly under prepared. Wished I had thought to google more before they were placed on. I appreciated your steps and encouragement to stick at the flossing, etc (it IS a pain). I'm hoping you (and nearly everyone else I've spoken to ;)) is correct that come next week I don't feel the pain, nor the discomfort to such a level because as of right now I've been googling getting my braces off earlier :) Thanks!!